I'd looked at it the first time I heard of climbing in Sedona. Two roof cracks...good rock...exquisite exposure...Looked great, but I've never been strong enough to even think about actually climbing it.
Following a very slow morning Jason and I rolled out of town around noon, we'd casually decided to get on Castles in the Sand a 5.11+ located in the Church Spires area of Sedona. I'd only done one climb in this area, Streaker Spire, and it was total choss. I tried to call friends the night before who'd done the route to get some beta, but to no avail. So after quickly tossing a rack together with emphasis on small hands and fists I was know actually hiking up to the base of the route. I guess mentally I figured that since the route was rap bolted that I'd struggle my way up the first pitch, then we'd decide to bail with the ominous roof above teasing my desire.
After a strangely quick approach with a surprisingly short section of Sedona 4th class scrambling we arrived at a perfect 5 by 5 foot ledge at the base of the climb. Upon touching the rock I was shocked at the quality and gazed up at the amazing changing corners first pitch and the huge roof guarding the rest of the route. The first pitch went well and I only hung once. While waiting for Jason to climb at the hanging belay I thought of excuses of a way to get out of leading this roof. Half of me stoked out of my mind to lead it, and the other half worried about the shit show that could possibly ensue. Without and excuse to bail I took the gear from Jason, and set off.
To my extreme surprise I easily pulled through the perfect hands roof, around the lip, and to a pretty good rest clean. I thought the pitch would be over after this, but another 80 feet of offwidth, fingers, and thin hands were left to the anchors. As I started moving up, the rope failed to follow me. Unfortunately blowing my onsight I set two pieces and lowerd back to the roof to remove the piece the rope was stuck behind. I then surprised myself be climbing the rest of the pitch clean. The exposure at the roof with the scenery against a dark grey sky, fresh air, and the calm of being in an area alone have since stayed imprinted in my mind. By the time we got to the top of the second belay we both decided it would be good to save the third roof for another time where we could redpoint the whole route. This will happen soon, and I'm stoked.
Breaking the 5.11 barrier in Sedona has opened the world of routes, and I feel so excited and lucky to live so close. Sedona will always be a place close to my heart, and central to my current psyche. We didn't take a camera because we had no idea of what to expect, but here is a famous photo of the roof out of an old Patagonia ad!
I believe the photo credit is John Burcham...